Acne Rash
Perioral dermatitis tends to clear slowly and may take a few weeks or months to clear completely.

Acne is caused by clogged pores that become infected with bacteria, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Numerous skin conditions resemble acne in appearance and feel.

A rash that resembles acne could be perioral dermatitis, a skin condition that causes small, red, itchy, acne-like breakouts often seen in people with a light complexion and those with darker skin.

Although perioral dermatitis often develops around the mouth, it can also appear around the eyes, nose, or genitals (periorificial dermatitis).

What causes perioral dermatitis?

Although the exact cause of perioral dermatitis is unknown, researchers speculate that certain products that may irritate the skin or things that a person is allergic to may cause this condition. 

Perioral dermatitis can also be triggered by inhaled prescription steroid sprays (used in the nose or mouth), toothpaste, fluorinated toothpaste, and heavy face moisturizers.

Some people may also develop this rash due to the application of corticosteroid medicines (topical steroids) for a prolonged period (overuse).

Other causes may include:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Dysfunction of the epidermal barrier
  • Problems with the immune system

What are the symptoms of perioral dermatitis?

Perioral dermatitis is not contagious as it does not spread through touch or contact, no matter where this rash appears, be it the mouth or genitals. The predominant symptom of perioral dermatitis is a red rash around the mouth.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Red-colored rash with or without itching
  • A burning sensation in and around the rash
  • Development of papules (inflamed bumps), vesicles (clear fluid-filled bumps), or pustules (white fluid-filled bumps)

How is perioral dermatitis treated?

Most of the time, this rash clears on its own. Some cases need help from a dermatologist (skin specialist).

The following are a few suggestions/treatment options:

Despite all the efforts, perioral dermatitis tends to clear slowly. It may take a few weeks or months to clear completely.


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What other conditions can cause a face rash similar to acne?

The following medical conditions can result in acne-like face rash:

  • Folliculitis: A common skin condition caused by an infected or inflamed hair follicle and characterized by uncomfortable and itchy small red bumps
  • Chickenpox: A common infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus and characterized by skin bumps that resemble acne
  • Milia: A type of skin lesion characterized by harmless pale and raised white dots on the skin
  • Rosacea: A chronic skin condition that leads to facial redness, visible blood vessels, and bumps
  • Ingrown hair: Hair that has grown back into the skin, forming a raised bump and mimics the appearance of acne
  • Molluscum contagiosum: A viral skin condition that can cause doughnut-shaped pink or skin-colored bumps on the skin
  • Keratosis pilaris: A genetic skin condition that causes small, hard bumps on the skin that resemble a rash
  • An allergic reaction: Many non-comedogenic (that do not clog pores) products may cause rashes and allergic reactions that can look like acne
  • Staphylococcus infection: Staphylococcus bacteria are harmless and often found on the skin of healthy people but cause infection if they enter open cuts, wounds, or scratches
  • Skin cancer: An early-stage skin cancer may show small, pink, or red pearly bumps with blue, brown, or black areas

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Medically Reviewed on 11/2/2022
Image Source: iStock image


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